Final

Bills 26

(6-8, 2-5 away)

Titans 28

(10-4, 6-1 home)

1:00 PM ET, December 14, 2003

 

1 2 3 4 T
BUF 0 10 7 926
TEN 3 3 8 1428

Backup keys rally, D stops tying two

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans thought until kickoff that injured Steve McNair would start. He didn't, and backup Billy Volek made sure his absence didn't hurt them -- even though Volek was ill himself.

Allen's Analysis
Eric Allen
Question on the Bills: How do you think the Henry-McGahee situation will play out?
As well as he's been playing, a healthy Travis Henry gives the Bills another year for Willis McGahee to work out the kinks. Then, after next year, they can assess whether McGahee will be their running back of the future. Or, they could go to a two-back tandem which is very popular now. But, a lot will depend on who's coaching the Bills and what type of system he'll run. Right now, though, Henry is a vital part to the Bills' success.

Question on the Titans: Have the nagging injuries to McNair prematurely ended their season?
McNair's injuries haven't ended the Titans' season, but they're certainly not as strong as they were three weeks ago. What's unfortunate is that the injuries have deterred McNair's MVP season. He can't be voted MVP if he's not able to play, and that's too bad because he was having a terrific season. Over the next couple of weeks, McNair will get back into the flow of things. The Titans' win wrapped up their Wild Card spot, so I'm sure he's excited about the possibility of getting back into the playoffs. Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

In his first NFL start, Volek threw for two touchdowns and ran for another as Tennessee snapped a two-game losing streak by rallying for a 28-26 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

"What can you say about Billy's effort?" Titans coach Jeff Fisher said. "That is a very tough defense to throw against. Billy hung in there and took a lot of hits. He made big plays."

Volek, a four-year veteran who was undrafted out of Fresno State, filled in ably against the NFL's second-best defense even though he had flu-like symptoms the past few days. He was 26-of-41 for 295 yards in helping the Titans hold the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

"Obviously, my emotions were running pretty high," Volek said. "I found out about an hour before the game after warmups that I was probably going to go."

Volek didn't eat or drink much Sunday and got dizzy in the shower after the game. He even received intravenous fluids.

Buffalo had one last chance to force overtime when Drew Bledsoe drove the Bills 81 yards in nine plays before finding Mark Campbell on a 6-yard TD toss with 24 seconds left.

But Bobby Shaw couldn't control a low pass in the right corner of the end zone on the 2-point conversion try. Shaw said he caught the ball, but it was ruled incomplete. A replay review didn't help.

Erron Kinney recovered the Bills' onside kick to clinch the victory.

Buffalo coach Gregg Williams said he couldn't wait to see the film, and Bledsoe said it looked like a tremendous catch.

"We've seen that kind of ruling a number of times this year with our team, other teams. If you don't possess the ball the whole way down, then they call it incomplete," Bledsoe said.

Said Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck: "It was real close. I'm not certain at all. I'm glad I didn't have to make the call."

Tennessee (10-4) remains the AFC's top contender for a wild-card berth, but Cincinnati's 41-38 victory over San Francisco delayed the Titans from clinching their fourth postseason berth in five years.

The Titans eliminated Buffalo (6-8) by ending the Bills' two-game winning streak.

Fisher was stung by three fumbles lost on special teams in last week's 29-27 loss to Indianapolis, so he took no chances, using Derrick Mason, a Pro Bowl returner in 2000.

Mason caught nine passes for 137 yards and had 165 yards combined on kick and punt returns, which he hadn't done consistently since 2001. Gary Anderson added two field goals.

Buffalo had four sacks, including one resulting in Volek's fumble that Pat Williams returned 28 yards for a TD and a 17-6 lead in the third quarter. But the Bills' defense, which hadn't allowed a team to top 20 points since a loss to Kansas City on Oct. 26, couldn't compensate for an offense that failed to hold a 10-6 halftime lead.

Tennessee sacked Bledsoe three times and held the Bills to 241 yards. The Titans also improved its NFL-best streak to 28 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. Tennessee held Travis Henry to 88 yards.

McNair dressed despite being on crutches until midweek with a cracked bone spur in his left ankle. He didn't start, snapping his 43-game consecutive starts streak.

It was Bulluck's sack and his recovery of Bledsoe's fumble at the Bills 18 that got the Titans going in the third. Three plays later, Volek found Erron Kinney for a 14-yard TD toss. A 2-point conversion made it 17-14.

Volek was 5-of-6 for 51 yards on the next drive, which he capped with a 2-yard TD pass to Justin McCareins for a 21-17 lead in the fourth period.

Volek provided the winning margin with his 1-yard TD run with 4:23 left.

Game notes


McNair didn't play for the first time since Sept. 23, 2001, when a sore right shoulder sidelined him. ... Bills DE Aaron Schobel had two sacks, giving him a career-high with 10{ for the season. He becomes only the fifth in Bills history with 10 or more sacks in a season, joining Bruce Smith, Bryce Paup, Phil Hansen and Marcellus Wiley. ... Mason's 32-yard catch in the fourth quarter put him over 1,100 yards for the second time in his career. He joins Drew Hill, Tim Smith and Charlie Hennigan as the only receivers in franchise history to do that. ... Bills running back Willis McGahee was deactivated.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press

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Scoring Summary

THIRD QUARTERBUFTEN
bufTD14:15Touchdown
Drive info: 1 plays, 28 yds, 0:00
166
buf14:15
Drive info: 1 plays, 28 yds, 0:00
176
tenTD5:30Touchdown(Robert Holcombe run for 2pt conversion)
Drive info: 3 plays, 18 yds, 0:35
1714
SECOND QUARTERBUFTEN
bufTD2:00Touchdown
Drive info: 4 plays, 26 yds, 1:47
96
buf2:00
Drive info: 4 plays, 26 yds, 1:47
106
bufFG11:23Rian Lindell 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 6 plays, 66 yds, 1:42
36
FOURTH QUARTERBUFTEN
tenTD4:35Billy Volek, 1 yd run
Drive info: 6 plays, 67 yds, 1:50
2027
bufFG8:24Rian Lindell 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 8 plays, 40 yds, 2:02
2021
ten4:35
Drive info: 6 plays, 67 yds, 1:50
2028
bufTD0:36Touchdown
Drive info: 9 plays, 81 yds, 2:02
2628
tenTD14:55Touchdown
Drive info: 8 plays, 58 yds, 12:25
1720
ten14:55
Drive info: 8 plays, 58 yds, 12:25
1721
FIRST QUARTERBUFTEN
tenFG4:52Gary Anderson 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 14 plays, 61 yds, 5:44
03
SECOND QUARTERBUFTEN
tenFG14:02Gary Anderson 10 yd Field Goal
Drive info: 12 plays, 35 yds, 14:01
06